The Truth About Michael, Nazism, and Anti-Semitism-Pt 2 (Reexamining They Don't Care About Us)


Okay, finally, my much-delayed Part 2 to this series!

If recent commentary is any indication, I’ve learned that there is still a lot of confusion and misinterpretation regarding this song. Sadly, Michael Jackson-the artist-still takes a lot of the brunt of that confusion and misinterpretation. The question is: How much of this criticism is justified to some extent, and how much of it is totally unwarranted?

A lot of the confusion and misinterpretation stems from two very specific factors-the kneejerk tendency on the part of overly sensitive, PC listeners in taking a couple of lines out of context, and the tendency of most listeners to confuse the “I” persona in the song with the artist. Ironically, this is something we English instructors spend a great deal of time stressing when teaching even the most basic literary analysis skills. We can never simply assume that the author or artist and the first person persona he/she has created in a piece are one and the same. Sometimes they are, but just as often, they are not. Yet I think a huge part of the problem with They Don’t Care About Us is the fact that a lot of listeners-and especially a lot of critics who influenced the way the public perceived the song-simply didn’t “get it.”  It has been misunderstood by many in the same way that his song and video for Black or White was totally misunderstood by those who insisted on reducing it only to a simplistic message about racial harmony, while completely missing the song’s subtext.

The No. 1 Cardinal Rule Of All Art…Never Assume The “I” Persona Is The Artist. As Walt Whitman Said, “I Contain Multitudes.”

Among the many arguements I have heard and criticisms against Michael for use of the lines “Jew me/sue me” and “ki** me” is that racism is never acceptable, in any context. But where do we draw the line between what is racist, and an artist who is making a socially relevant statement against racism and bigotry (and in so doing, forcing us to confront some ugly truths?).  We could say truth is seldom pretty, nor does it always come conveniently wrapped for us in a nice little PC box.

As for the They Don’t Care About Us lyric, there IS something to be said for the context of that song, considering it is a song all about racial profiling. Certainly, I don’t think Michael’s INTENT in using the “k” word, for example, was any worse than rappers who use “ni**er” every other word to make a point, but while Michael could get away with calling himself a “ni**er”  if he chose to (because he is identifying with his own culture and what has become acceptable for that culture, even if albeit not without its own controversy) it was quite another to appropriate the identity of a Jewish person, no matter how much the song might have been meant to empathize with their suffering. For that line, he is taking on the persona of a Jewish person who, like himself as an African-American, and like the young black man in the song who is being profiled on the police scanner, is being stigmatized and racially profiled.

If more actually listened to the lyrics, it would become quite obvious that Michael isn’t necessarily singing about himself, but a multitude of voices and personas. Note the highlighted lines here:

Skin head, dead head
Everybody gone bad
Situation, aggravation
Everybody allegation
In the suite, on the news
Everybody dog food
Bang bang, shot dead
Everybody’s gone mad

All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us
All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us

Beat me, hate me
You can never break me
Will me, thrill me
You can never kill me
Jew me, sue me
Everybody do me
Kick me, kike me
Don’t you black or white me

All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us
All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us

Tell me what has become of my life
I have a wife and two children who love me
I am the victim of police brutality, now
I’m tired of bein’ the victim of hate
You’re rapin’ me off my pride
Oh, for God’s sake
I look to heaven to fulfill its prophecy…
Set me free

Skin head, dead head
Everybody gone bad
Trepidation, speculation
Everybody allegation
In the suite, on the news
Everybody dog food
Black male, black mail
Throw your brother in jail

All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us
All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us

Tell me what has become of my rights
Am I invisible because you ignore me?
Your proclamation promised me free liberty, now
I’m tired of bein’ the victim of shame
They’re throwing me in a class with a bad name
I can’t believe this is the land from which I came
You know I really do hate to say it
The government don’t wanna see
But if Roosevelt was livin’
He wouldn’t let this be, no, no

Skin head, dead head
Everybody gone bad
Situation, speculation
Everybody litigation
Beat me, bash me
You can never trash me
Hit me, kick me
You can never get me

All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us
All I wanna say is that
They don’t really care about us

Some things in life they just don’t wanna see
But if Martin Luther was livin’
He wouldn’t let this be, no, no

Skin head, dead head
Everybody gone bad
Situation, segregation
Everybody allegation
In the suite, on the news
Everybody dog food
Kick me, strike me
Don’t you wrong or right me

The song’s theme and pattern is established in the very first line. “Skin head” immediatly conjures the image of the skin head and all that they represent. But notice he immediatly contrasts this image with “dead head,” which is playing on two levels. “Deadheads,” of course, is the phrase used to describe Grateful Dead fanatics, which can also be translated to mean a generalization of all liberal hippies-the exact contrast of the skin head. On another level, it also connotates that the skin heads are “dead heads”-literally!

The Accusing Finger Points To Everyone In This Song………


…Everyone is A Victim, Everyone Is A Perpetrator

The next line, “Everybody gone bad” establishes that this is not being directed at any one individual or group, but at all of us. No one group is being singled out here. Just as everyone in this song is a victim, everyone in turn is also getting the finger of accusation pointed at them. To me, this is an interesting point because as we all know too well, racism and bigotry certainly isn’t exclusive to any one race or creed. As a human race, we are all to some extent equally guilty. Together, we have all played a hand in creating this mess.

The lines “Everybody dog food” and “Everybody gone mad” further emphasize this all-inclusive point. Just as we’ve ALL “gone bad” we are also all, in turn, victims and all, by turn, cogs in the machine, constantly perpetuating a cycle without end.

It’s  no coincidence that the two leaders specified in The Don’t Care About Us just happen to be a white man and a black man. This enforces the message that it’s not about color but nobility of character. He purposely references Franklin D. Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, Jr as polar opposities yet united by a common goal of humanity. This serves to further emphasize the dichotomy and yet all-inclusiveness of the song’s message. Roosevelt and King-both men whom Michael personally idealized-are used to represent the ideal in ourselves that we should strive for. It’s important here to note that it’s not “just” a white man who wouldn’t let these things be if he were alive, and not “just” a black man, but rather, two human beings who together epitomized the best of our humanity. And both would be equally disgusted by the current state of affairs.

The line that best reveals that Michael is taking on a persona-and not singing about himself necessarily-is the line “Tell me what has become of my life/I have a wife and two children who love me.” At the time, of course, Michael was not yet a father. Unless one can make the very weak arguement that he’s referring to Lisa Marie and her two children (which I’ve heard, but I just don’t think likely) this line is an obvious reference to a fictional persona, most likely the young black male who is being hunted down via the message on the police scanner.

“I Am The Voice Of The Accused And The Attacked. I Am The Voice Of Everyone. I Am The Skinhead, I Am The Jew…”-Michael Jackson, NY Times Statement

When Michael sings the lines “Jew me/sue me” and “kick me/ki** me” they are directly analogous to these lines that come later: “Everybody dog food/black male/black mail/throw your brother in jail.” This is probably the best example in showing that he (or the song’s narrator) is equating his own treatment to the violence and hatred against Jews.

But then, this really should be no great mystery. Michael himself explained that he was taking on many roles and multi personas in the song, when he made this statement to The New York Times in the aftermath of the controversy:

“The idea that these lyrics could be deemed objectionable is extremely hurtful to me, and misleading. The song in fact is about the pain of prejudice and hate and is a way to draw attention to social and political problems. I am the voice of the accused and the attacked. I am the voice of everyone. I am the skinhead, I am the Jew, I am the black man, I am the white man. I am not the one who was attacking. It is about the injustices to young people and how the system can wrongfully accuse them. I am angry and outraged that I could be so misinterpreted.”-Michael Jackson

Shortly therefter, Michael also made this statement on Prime Time Live:

“Its [They Don’t Care About Us] not anti-Semitic because I’m not a racist person. I could never be a racist. I love all races.”

In the New York Times statement, Michael makes both his intent and the song’s context quite clear: “I am the voice of the accused and the attacked. I am the voice of everyone. I am the skinhead, I am the Jew, I am the black man, I am the white man.”

Adapting different personas as a way of seeing the world through many perspectives was nothing new to Michael. Note what Michael says in this 1982 interview with Bob Colacello when the subject of acting comes up (boldfaced statements are my emphasis):

JACKSON: I love it so much. It’s escape. It’s fun. It’s just neat to become another thing, another person. Especially when you really believe in it and it’s not like you’re acting. I always hated the word acting—to say, “I’m an actor.” It should be more than that. It should be more like a believer.

COLACELLO: But isn’t that a little frightening when you believe it totally?

JACKSON: No, that’s what I really love about it. I just like to really forget.

COLACELLO: Why do you want to forget so much? Do you think life is really hard?

JACKSON: No, maybe it’s because I just like jumping in other people’s lives and exploring. Like Charlie Chaplin. I just love him to death. The little tramp, the whole gear and everything, and his heart—everything he portrayed on the screen was a truism. It was his whole life. He was born in London, and his father died an alcoholic when he was six. He roamed the streets of England, begging, poor, hungry. All this reflects on the screen and that’s what I like to do, to bring all of those truths out . . .

Interestingly enough, this same website has a 2003 interview Michael did with Pharrel Williams that has perhaps an even more telling quote.  By the way, this is the same interview from which we get Michael’s famous statement about having rhinoceros skin, but I found perhaps an even more interesting quote. Granted, I am taking Michael’s words slightly out of context here, but only slightly, as I think  this is a line that goes far in explaining exactly what his intent was when he wrote They Don’t Care About Us:

“I love all races, I love all people, but sometimes there’s a devil in people…”-Michael Jackson

Exactly! And it was this “devil” who exists in all people that Michael sought to show us in They Don’t Care About Us!

“I Love All Races, I Love All People. But Sometimes There’s A Devil In People”-MJ

But that brings us to the next question. Did Michael realize those lines would be controversial? I think we can safely say yes. Michael never did anything by accident, and I think he absolutely knew those line would blow up, just as he knew how much the Black or White video would blow up when it aired. This was the P.T. Barnum showman in him, and nothing else. Sometimes it worked in his favor; other times, it blew up in his face. What I don’t think he anticipated was that the negative reaction to the line in TDCAU would be AS huge as it turned out to be. I think he believed it would have people talking around the water coolers, for sure, and trying to analyze it (just like we’re doing now) but not that it would lead to charges of outright anti-Semitism that would still haunt him seventeen years later. Michael always seemed to trust that his role as an artist would give him the license to occasionally be controversial-if the upside of that controversy was to make us think, and react.

This was an interesting discussion on this very topic that I found awhile back. It was in response to Spike Lee (who directed the TDCAU video) criticizing Quentin Tarantino for using the “n” word:

In an interview with The Guardian, Spike Lee puts his finger on a certain inconsistency in how the video was treated:

And you wonder if [Spike Lee] regrets any of them [various controversies he’s been involved in]. His verbal disembowelling of Quentin Tarantino, for example, after taking offence at the latter’s use of the word *beep* in his 1997 caper Jackie Brown? He’s already answering by the time I’ve got to “Quent-“.

“Oh, I don’t regret that at all. And to put the record straight, because a lot of people never got the whole story… I never said that Quentin Tarantino should not be allowed to use the word *beep* My contention was that his use of it was excessive. You know, Harvey Weinstein [co-founder of Miramax, Jackie Brown’s financiers] called me up and said he wished I’d leave this thing alone. And I said, ‘Harvey – would you ever release a film that on so many occasions used the word nigger? He just cleared his throat and said, ‘No.’ So, it’s like, ‘Oh – you can’t say “kike but *nigger* is OK?’ “

He lets the question hang. But he’s not done yet.
“And then of course they say, ‘But Tarantino’s an artist, he’s just expressing himself.’ Well, if we’re talking about artists, let’s talk about…”

Everything slows with the realisation of what’s coming next.
“Michael Jackson. Because, forgetting all that other shit for a minute, in the song They Don’t Care About Us, Michael Jackson said ‘Sue me, Jew me, Kick me, kike me.’ What happened? He was ripped apart by Spielberg and David Geffen, and the record was pulled from the stores. So, Quentin Tarantino says nigger and he’s an artist, but Michael Jackson says kike and it can’t be exposed to the public?”

So what’s he saying? Are they both acceptable, or neither? “All I’m saying is why is it OK for Quentin Tarantino to say nigger and not for Michael Jackson to say kike?” His point, at least what I think is his point, is well taken: I really am starting to wish he’d stop saying nigger.  “So that’s the question,” he says. “Why is one OK and one not?”
I think part of an answer has to do with the fact that various communities have different notions and sensitivities when it comes to deciding what is really offensive. For example, I don’t know a Jewish analogue to a spoken word piece like *beep* are Scared of Revolution” let alone the prevalence of the n-word in contemporary hip-hop. (And as the line goes, “You can’t complain if you are dancing to it.”) A second (and more important) factor has to do with the relative political power of various communities and their ability to impose their sensitivities on the public. (For example, I don’t think anyone has ever gotten in trouble for using “gyp” as a verb but then again Gypsies/Roma have almost zero visibility or political power in the United States. re-about-us.html

Then there were those like Rabbi Hier (whose commentary I will examine in more detail in just a bit) who basically said he understood and “got” the context of the song, but his problem was that the word “ki**” was simply so personally offensive to him, that he could not get past that.

Michael’s Biggest Offense In TDCAU Could Be Argued As One That Was More Of Misappropriation Than Racism Or Bigotry. In Applying African-American Standards To Jewish Slurs, He May Have Failed To Consider That His Jewish Audience Might Have A Very Different Reaction From The One Intended

And this, I think, was the big problem Michael ran into. I believe he thought that the word has the same political connotations for the Jewish community as “ni**er” for blacks (meaning, it can be acceptable when used in the context of social protest and a statement of solidarity) or at least may have thought that his lyrics would be taken in the same context, but he did not take into account-or at least did not appear to take into account here- that different minority groups have different standards for what is offensive to them. Whereas many African-Americans, at least in the hip-hop culture, have embraced the “n” word when it is being used to make a political statement (basically, as a way of saying we have taken back and “own” the word, in the same way that many Native Americans now prefer to be called “Indian” as a way of protesting white liberalism) the Jews have not similarly embraced “ki**” in the same way, and it cannot therefore be used in the same way. In the song This Time Around (also from the HIStory album) Michael indirectly refers to himself as a “nigga” via The Notorious B.I.G’s rap-that is, even though he doesn’t make the reference directly, Notorious B.I.G’s rap indicates that Michael is clearly drawing the lines of “us” vs. “them” and, at least for the first time on one of his records, is making a clear effort to call attention to his black identity-and, in so doing, toes a very clear line as to where his true allegiance lies.


But it’s interesting that Michael’s use of the “n” word on the very same album hardly raised an eyebrow. Perhaps this was due to the fact that our hip-hop drenched culture has largely desensitized us to the word, but I think the bigger reason is that it comes down to a very important fundamental difference between African-American and Jewish culture. As was mentioned earlier, hip-hop has played a huge role in allowing African-Americans to take back and “own” a word that was once used to dehumanize and denigrate them. When Notorious B.I.G. raps in This Time Around that ” I know my nigga Mike like that” it  is taken as a sign of camaraderie and brotherhood. But Jewish people have not come to similar terms with the word ki**. There are no Jewish rap artists lambasting a world where “everyone is out to ki** me.” Perhaps Michael’s biggest mistake in They Don’t Care About Us was not so much in the use of a “racist” lyric as it was in the idea that he could apply Jewish angst to an essentially African-American art form. In the song, he snarls the lines “Jew me/sue me” and “kick me/ki** me” with the same kind of swagger and bradaggio that a young hip-hop artist might employ when rapping a line about being brutalized and treated like a “ni**er” by society. But it was this very delivery, I think, that gave rise to the lyric being so misunderstood. If the lyric is heard out of context, one only picks up on the violent aggression of the lyric. But within its proper and complete context, it becomes easy to see that the lyric is certainly not intended to be any more offensive to Jews than the average rap lyric is intended to offend its target audience. If anything, rappers intend for their lyrics to be controversial and inflammatory, a sort of call to arms, if you will. But certainly not as an affront to their own. In this same sense, I think Michael certainly intended for the song to be militant and inflammatory. He intended it to be a song that would make listeners pay attention. But perhaps what he failed to take into account is that his use of the lines “Jew me/sue me” and “kick me/ki** me”  could also be taken as a kind of misappropriation-and to a large extent, that is exactly what happened. Just as many African-Americans who might use the “n” word when talking amongst themselves become understandably enraged when called that word by white people, it is generally an understood rule of thumb among most groups that, “Just because we might talk that way amongst ourselves doesn’t make it okay for anyone else.”

As was pointed out in The Guardian article, not only do different ethnic groups have their own rules for what is considered offensive, but also, a lot depends on how much clout and political power a group has. Not only do jokes and stereotyped statements about Gypsies go relatively unchallenged, but so do ignorant, offensive names, jokes, and stereotypes regarding Native Americans. In fact, when Native people routinely protest against being used as sports mascots, for example, they are usually ridiculed by mainstream Americans and told they need to “lighten up.” I think it really does come down to a matter of political power. And that’s not meant to pass judgement on those who took offense to the song, but just a simple statement of fact.

It’s No Secret That Michael Had Undergone A Dark Time In His Life Prior To HIStory. Many Were Suspicious Of What Seemed Like A Sudden Sprouting Of Political Consciousness, Even Though The Reality Was That It Was Not Sudden At All

Then there are those who question the timing of the song, given that Michael had undergone some very dark times in his personal life in the years preceding the release of HIStory. I have personally debated quite a few people who staunchly believe that Michael’s only purpose in the intensely personal, political, and angst-ridden songs of this era was to rationalize his own personal issues while shifting blame onto others. Certainly there is some justification for this, as the songs on HIStory were angrier, darker, and more intensely personal than any he had done before. And it’s also certainly not unusual for artists to create some of their darkest and angriest work when they, themselves, have been to a very dark place. If we fault Michael for this, then we would have to similarly fault every single artist who has ever written, sung, or painted their way through a dark and troubled time in their life-and frankly, that would be a list too long to fathom, one that would undoubtedly include most of the greatest works of the last millenium.

It’s not that I don’t believe this criticism has some merit. I have frankly never been a huge fan of the song Childhood, for example, because to me the song just feels like Michael attempting to rationalize all of his more controversial behavior and whining about being misunderstood. Compositionally, it’s a beautiful piece, but when I hear the lyrics, I can’t get past the urge to cringe. If you compare Childhood to, say, something like the infinitely superior Stranger In Moscow, you can see what I mean. Both songs express the angst of being misunderstood, and the darkness of feeling alienated, but lyrically, Stranger In Moscow is the much stronger piece, managing to express Michael’s sense of alienation and of being misunderstood without resorting to treacly sentimentality and triteness.

Overall, though, I would have to say that the track Childhood is an anamoly on what is an otherwise very solid and intense album, one that I think is continuing to be reevaluated by critics and serious scholars of music as more and more of its layers are peeled back. I also don’t buy the argument that Michael was doing a complete about-face here, as some have contended, going from mere “pop artist” to having suddenly, overnight, sprouted a political conscience. While it’s true that Michael had never before dealt with racism as overtly as he does on HIStory and specifically in They Don’t Care About Us, it wasn’t as if these themes had come from completely out of the blue. In many crucial ways, They Don’t Care About Us was simply a continuation of some of the same ideas he had first put forth in Black or White (both the song and its video) and other earlier works.

In They Don’t Care About Us he specifically sings the line “Don’t you black or white me”  which again, I think, is playing on multi levels. On the one hand, it seems to be a direct reference to racial profiling. On the other, it could be a way of saying, “Don’t pigeonhole me into a ‘color.'” If we go back to the song Black or White, one of the lines in the song (during the rap segment) specifically says, “I’m not going to spend my life being a color.” I think it could also be possible that he is saying, Don’t try to hold me to some sappy ideal about racial harmony and equality just because I once sang ‘Black or White.'”

Michael Jackson Wasn’t Just An Idealist, He Was Also A Realistic Who Understood How The World Really Works

Black or White, just like They Don’t Care About Us, is a song that has often been taken out of context and misunderstood. Many, hearing only the upbeat refrain of the chorus, think it is just a simple and happy song about racial harmony. But the subtext is much more than that. He also references the KKK, and while singing about an ideal world where it doesn’t matter “if you’re black or white” also says, “Don’t tell me you agree with me/when I saw you kicking dirt in my eye.”

Then there was the controversial coda segment of the video, in which he morphed into a black panther (widely understood to be a symbolic nod to The Black Panthers and The Black Power Movement) and acted out a solo riot reminiscent of The Chicago Riots of 1968.

In many ways, it was a variant of the same message that he was also bringing to light in They Don’t care About Us. In the coda segment of the Black or White video, he was essentially taking the whole, happy, idealistic message he had just delivered, and turning it completely on its ear. It was a way of saying, “It SHOULDN’T matter if you’re black or white, but even I know that’s just an ideal and the unfortunate reality is that we live in a world where it DOES matter.”

I think in the Black or White video, the coda was a way of saying, “Before that ideal can be reached, there is still a lot of ugly sh*t we gotta deal with first.”

But the video blew up into controversy because the message went completely over the heads of most viewers, who instead only fixated on Michael’s auto-erotic antics and violence. And even those who somewhat got it were still left feeling a bit baffled and confused, failing to understand why Michael, who had just spent six minutes telling us it didn’t matter what color we were, suddenly morphed into a raging Black Panther who seemed to be saying race does matter…a lot. Of course, the clues were there all along, but they were so subtley buried beneath the song’s happy, predominant chorus, coupled with the comic skit of the father and son and Michael dancing with all the nationalities of the world-that most didn’t pick up on them. Twenty years later, critics and scholars are still  attempting to analyze it, with varying degrees of success.

If you have not read this article on the Black or White video by Reverend Barbara Kauffman, I highly recommend that you do, as it will not only help shed light on this particular work but will also better help you to understand Michael’s unheralded role as a civil rights activist of pop music and, in turn, will better enable you to put into context where he was coming from with They Don’t Care About Us: l-and-christmas-celebration/article/black-and-white-and-proud

As for They Don’t Care About Us specifically, there are a couple of excellent articles on the Dancing With the Elephant website that I highly recommend:

The second article is formatted as a roundtable discussion between Dr. Willa Stillwater, Joie Collins, journalist Charles Thomson, and Michael Jackson music scholar Joe Vogel.

With their kind permission, I am reprinting here what both Thomson and Dr. Willa Stillwater said in the second piece regarding how Michael is using the prison video version of They Don’t Care About Us to make his statement about race. I thought this was very interesting and insightful, especially for someone like me whose personal preference has always been for the Brazil version. But this assessment certainly helped me to view the prison version in a new light. The first two paragraphs I’m quoting are what Charles Thomson had to say, and he addresses both videos; later, Dr. Stillwater narrows the focus specifically to the prison video:

I think that if you listen to a song like “They Don’t Care About Us,” Michael discusses race in a clear ‘them and us’ sense. It’s right there in the title. He is juxtaposing ‘us’ – the subordinates – with ‘they’ – the establishment. He makes clear that the ‘us’ are racial minorities through other lyrics in the track. “Black man, blackmail / Throw the brother in jail.” “I’m tired of being a victim of shame / You’re throwing me in a class with a bad name.” The use of the police radio message about the young Black man killed by police in a case of mistaken identity reinforces this position.

Then you look at the two videos which accompanied the song. The prison version shows the inmates to be almost unanimously Black. There are images of the KKK. In the Brazil version, he goosesteps and gives a Nazi salute. He stands on a balcony delivering a song based in part on Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream speech.’ There is little room for any interpretation besides that Jackson is railing against racism and identifying himself as a Black man and therefore a victim…

And from later in the post:

Willa: But in the videos – the prison version, especially – the visuals complicate those lyrics. Most of the prisoners are Black, but some are White or American Indian or some other minority. Most of the guards are White, but several are Black. And I’m really struck by the fact that when he gets angry and shoves aside a guard’s billy club, that guard is Black. What that says to me is that while he’s fighting racism, as you say, it’s institutional racism, and he opposes anyone who supports that institutional racism, regardless of whether that individual is White or Black. He’s evaluating people by their beliefs and actions, not their skin color, and that’s a message he consistently expressed throughout his life.

There are also newsreel-type visuals of some fairly horrific violence – so horrific MTV refused to show this version before 9 at night. And while many of those scenes focus on images of the Ku Klux Klan or White-on-Black racial violence, there are also scenes of a White truck driver being severely beaten by young Black men during the Rodney King riots. And some of the most graphic scenes are war footage from Southeast Asia. So again, he’s fighting racism, but not in a simplistic Black versus White sort of way.

As they noted elsewhere in the piece, this was the first time Michael had offered alternate video versions of a song. In light of the above analysis, I have to agree that the prison version probably comes closest to fulfilling his actual vision of the song, whereas the Brazil version-for all its color and pageantry-seems more ambiguous.


But I also think they can be viewed somewhat as opposite ends of the same coin. In the prison version, the “us” is not just those in prison, but everyone who has been unjustly accused-and it goes without saying that minorities do make up most of the prison population in the US. That is a statistical fact. Yet as mentioned above, the video clearly shows that racism knows no boundaries-blacks are presented not merely as victims here, but also by turn as perpetrators themselves, as evidenced by the black guards who uphold the instituton, and by the blacks who are shown beating the white trucker-and for those of you too young to remember, this was a real incident that occurred during the LA riots that erupted after the Rodney King beating, when a white construction worker named Reginald Denny was nearly beaten to death by “The LA Four”:

If this video is any indication, we can safely say that Michael spoke the truth in his New York Times statement when he said the song’s intended message was to show that racism and bigotry is not exclusive to anyone or to any race, but rather, is a social ill that inflicts and affects all of us.

But whereas the prison version is very dark and pessimistic, the Brazil version seems almost a defiant celebration by contrast (perhaps this is the quality that, for me, I find so much more appealing). In this version, the poor Brazilians who represent the song’s collective “us” nevertheless seem to be expressing a lot of joy as they dance and sing in the streets-perhaps in the exuberance of having been liberated by music. Perhaps, knowing the sort of dichotomy that Michael sometimes liked to engage in, he was giving us two sides of the message to interpret as we see fit-the one being the rather dark and cynical view that we are all victims as well as perpetrators, and on the other hand, the idea that there is still hope and that we can manage to overcome and break the cycle. I believe the latter would certainly have appealed to Michael’s sense of altruism and philanthropy, even while recognizing that the former is closer to reality.

TDCAU Was The First And Only Video In Which Michael Allowed Us To See The Full Effects Of His Vitiligo. The Interesting Question It Raises Is…Why?

It’s also interesting to me that this was, to my knowledge, the first video in which he allowed the public to actually see his vitiligo splotches. Usually, he kept the splotches very carefully hidden beneath layers of clothing or makeup, but in some of the still photos from the video shoot, it is very obvious (to a lesser extent in the actual video, although it is still noticeable if you look closely). Perhaps this, too, was an intentional part of the message-the idea of being exposed; stripping away the illusions, and showing us what is not pretty, but what is real. It also heightens the song and video’s message of being a victim.

Now to be totally fair to the opposing view-those who still insist that the song is offensive and racist- here is what I DO agree with. Remember Rabbi Hier, whom I mentioned earlier.  Hier said he accepted that the song’s message was anti-bigotry but his problem was with the ambiguity of the lyrics. And I think he had a valid point. Most casual listeners will hear a song like They Don’t Care About Us and all they’re going to hear are those lines “Jew me/sue me” and “Kick me/ki** me,” just as the only thing most people actually heard in Black or White was the Pollyanna chorus of “It don’t matter if you’re black or white.” Those lines “Jew me” and “ki** me” scream out at the listener (whereas a lot of the rest of the lyrics-those that would help put the line in its proper context- get sort of lost in the mix) and for someone who finds them offensive, are understandably hard to get past.

“It’s the ambiguity that I’m afraid of when it reaches his 20 million buyers around the world,” said Rabbi Hier…

Rabbi Hier, Who Said He Understood The Song’s Intent, But Worried About The Ambiguity And What Would Happen When It Reaches Those “20 Million Buyers Around The World”

A typical response from the Jewish community was the one mother who said something to the effect (and I am paraphrasing here), “Thanks a lot, Mr. Jackson. Now my kids know the word k***.”

Well, we could argue that maybe this mother should monitor what her kids listen to, but that’s not the real point here. I understood what she meant. And I understand what Rabbi Hier was saying. It’s the same thing if you look at the arguments that parents-especially African-American parents- make about rap songs and their excessive use of the “n” word. Maybe, just as I was discussing earlier, these rap artists are making a social statement, and maybe it is a very valid one…but all the kids are hearing is THAT WORD, and along with it, everything that African-Americans have spent hundreds of years fighting to overcome.

But Rabbi Hier hits very accurately on part of the problem, which goes back to what was being said in that piece in defense of Michael’s rights as an artist to express himself. You can look at most of these rappers and even some rock stars who write very controversial, political, and even militant lyrics, and no one seems to raise an eyebrow because it just goes with the territory-is even expected.  Dr. Willa Stillwater and Joie Collins, for example, mentioned in their article “Some Things In Life They Just Don’t Want To See” that Steven Spielberg has often depicted Nazis in films like Schindler’s List. Now, obviously, it would be stupid to accuse Spielberg of being a Nazi sympathizer just because he depicts Nazis in his films-after all, how can one depict the horrors of The Holocaust without acknowledging what led to it in the first place? And what about bands like Pink Floyd, who often make use of the swastika and other Nazi imagery in their films and videos? The Wall (which is a brilliant work) depicts a young man who has literally erected a wall around his emotions, and as the story unfolds, we learn through song that the root cause of much of his mental and emotional pain stems from his father’s death at the hands of the Nazis. But if one were to simply take this imagery out of its artistic context, then it could certainly appear that Pink Floyd might be endorsing anti-Semitism. And apparently, Roger Waters hasn’t gone completely unscathed by the Anti-Defamation League:

Similarly, many punk, New Wave, and heavy metal bands have routinely featured Nazi imagery on their album covers, as well as lyrics that could be interpreted as anti-Semitic (regardless of whether that is the intent or not). In the 60’s, Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones certainly created a lot of controversy with this series of “joke” photos that appeared in a Danish magazine (most believe it was the influence of his then-girlfriend Anita Pallenberg, known for her own dark and twisted sense of humor):

The seminal punk band Joy Division (a name that in itself derived from a 1955  novel depicting fictional divisions among Nazi concentration camps  where Jewish women were sold into prostitution) was another band that often used Nazi imagery, but when questioned why, the band maintained that it was only for shock value. They knew it was something that would grab attention-whether that attention was negative or positive didn’t seem to matter so much, but considering the band’s target audience was not mainstream but rather mostly angst-ridden, white male teens, negative attention wasn’t so much a detriment as it was an asset.

I honestly think that most of these artists who do use Nazi imagery or anti-Semitic lyrcis are, in fact, just out for the shock value. But then, when you have so many of these rap, rock, and indie artists who routinely push the envelope on this kind of controversy, why does Michael Jackson get singled out and raked over the coals for it? While I conceded that I believe Michael enjoyed the controversy to some extent, he also had justifiable reason to be angry at being misunderstood and misinterpreted, especially when, unlike many of these other artists, he was actually making a relevant social statement. Why the double standard?

I think the answer goes right back to Rabbi Hier’s quote regarding the problem of ambiguity and those 20 million units sold around the world.

Michael’s Global Superstardom Was Both A Blessing And A Curse. It Meant Having The Hugest Platform In The World, But Also, It Meant The Stigma Of Always Being Judged By A Different Standard Than Most Artists. And Paradoxically, It Also Meant In Some Cases A Refusal To Accept Him AS An Artist, Rather Than A Pop Star

If one looks at most of these rap and indie rockers who can seemingly get away with any controversy and still remain “cool” one sees they all pretty much have one factor in common: Their appeal is largely limited to a very narrow demographic, and hence the major difference. Michael Jackson by this time was a global superstar whose albums were expected to sell in the tens of millions, who was listened to all over the world, universally embraced by all cultures, and with a wide appeal to parents and children, who of course would purchase this album expecting the same sort of mostly friendly, family fare as Thriller and Bad. I guess that could bring up a whole ‘nother topic on how fair it is (or not) for an artist to be saddled with that kind of social responsibility, but in Michael’s case, it was undeniably a factor. As a global icon, he DID have that responsibility, whether fairly or not. He was someone that kids looked up to (and he himself had helped create that image) and that parents viewed as “safe.” So, yes, to suddenly hear Michael using words like “ki**” in his songs had to have been very upsetting to many.

He ran into the same problem with the Black or White video, in which eventually they had to add the racist graffiti so that the ambiguity would be removed and people would “get it.”

I think Hier had a very valid concern that many would NOT get the context of the lyrics, and thus the song would potentially inflame hatred against Jews on a widespread scale.  Although I think his fears were somewhat exaggerated, they certainly weren’t unjustified. I thought he offered up a pretty reasonable compromise (that Michael should include a statement in the album’s package). Although the song isn’t singling out Jews, a lot of people mistakenly believed this to be the case. Again, it goes back to the problem of ambiguity.

People often ask how the creators of South Park, Family Guy and some of these other shows can possibly get away with some of the stuff they do. Well, the answer is simple. It’s because they attack and make fun of  EVERYONE-nothing is sacred. Does it make it right? That’s a point that could be argued, but at the very least, no one group can say they’ve been singled out. Everyone is subject to the same irreverence. Some have argued that if Michael had only made his intent a little clearer, there would have been no controversy. But honestly, I don’t know what more he could have done short of inserting a bunch of other racial slurs into the song just for the hell of it or giving a line-by-line analysis on national TV (for which, I’m sure, he would have been ridiculed and disbelieved, anyway). The song’s intent is clear enough if one just bothers to listen.

I believe that what Michael wanted was to make a political and relevent statement, but as always-simply because he was Michael Jackson, rather than your typical rapper or indie rocker-the expectations for him were always going to be different-and ultimately, far more complicated. One could argue that the very global popularity that made him the icon that he was also served in some ways to stifle him creatively. It was both a blessing and a curse-on the one hand, enabling him to reach a mass audience that most artists can only dream about, but also perhaps unfairly boxing him in as a role model with a social “responsibility” to his audience. It has been for the same reason that his personal life has been held to closer scrutiny than most singers and musicians; likewise, it seems the same scrutiny and double standard has been brought to bear on his art as well, whether fairly or not.

But Michael Jackson’s legacy-whatever it will mean to us as the years and decades move on-has already been made. He left us the songs. It is up to us now to determine what to make of them, and how history will judge them. In the case of a song like They Don’t Care About Us and the misunderstanding that continues to swirl around it, it really comes down to one simple question with no easy answers: Should we fault the artist for being too deep and going over our heads, or ourselves for being too shallow and refusing to listen?

The one thing we have to remember is that Michael was actually the reverse of what most people think. He was an artist first; a pop star second. As an artist, Michael did what all great artists do. He forced us to confront the best and the worst of himself-and us.

35 thoughts on “The Truth About Michael, Nazism, and Anti-Semitism-Pt 2 (Reexamining They Don't Care About Us)”

  1. Wonderful, Raven! I understand TDCAU exactly the same way, I always did. I always told people that with the lines “Jew me, sue me”…”kick me, ki** me” Michael meant: Hey, you treat me/us the same way the Jews were treated – that he wanted to express a common ground and not something disconnecting, let alone offensive.
    The “ki**” word and its significance, of course, was not known in other languages, so we never understood the fuss about it, though cusswords for Jews or other races are existing here as well, and of course in Germany they must be totally avoided!But I think the discussion and controversy about this expression was mostly limited to the US and Canada. So I thank you for explaining this further.
    I always preferred the prison video to this song (perhaps because I always was a fighter for justice and equality), because I felt it showed more clearly what he wanted so say – that racism is not limited to one race, but can be found everywhere, however that people who are underprivileged on various levels or belong to a minority are more subjected to injustice and governmental arbitrariness. This might again be my personal perception, though.
    But I want to remind that there is another name that no one seems to raise an eyebrow when it’s used – the abusive name Michael was personally designated with: Jacko. The media and most of the public never cared and still don’t that Michael didn’t like the name and felt offended by it. You’re right: There is always a double standard when it comes to MJ.

    1. Yes, Susanna, that is always an interesting point how words are perceived differently in different parts of the world.

      My husband is of German descent and, through him, I’ve been able to glean some different perspective on this topic than I would have ever had without knowing him. It’s always interesting to be able to get a “both sides” perspective on history. I think just as all white people in the US, to some extent, bear the collective guilt of slavery (even though none of us who are living now can help what our ancestors did and know it was wrong) I’m sure it must be very similar for German people who have grown up beneath the long shadow of WWII, Hitler, and the Holocaust. A lot of people don’t know that, in the US, Hitler was featured on the cover of Time Magazine in 1939 as “Man Of The Year.”,16641,19390102,00.html

      As my husband has said many times, the US knew exactly what was going on in Germany, but chose to turn a blind eye and not get involved-until it was too late. So who should help bear the burden of guilt here? Our history books tend to sanitize everything, and to strip everything down to its most simplistic black and white terms…good guys vs. bad guys. Or as Michael more bluntly put it, “The history books are lying.”

      And history, as we know, is written by the victors and the conquerors. This is another level that I think the song (as well as the whole HIStory concept) plays on so well. Michael is stripping away the blinders and showing us a world that isn’t simply “black or white”-but rather, many shades of gray.

  2. Nice job on this piece, Raven. I especially like this comment and feel it represents most of the pedestrian critics that try to analyze Michael’s work and come up woefully short. “Should we fault the artist for being too deep and going over our heads, or ourselves for being too shallow and refusing to listen?” Armond White is one of the few critics who “gets” Michael’s work and I am thankful to him for expanding my own view of Michael’s work.

    Michael always layered his work with meaning and disguised it under a wicked dance beat so we didn’t always realize it was infiltrating our soul as you note in “Black Or White.” That is the greatest short film ever made in its original form and in its entirety.

    As for criticism of Michael’s timing of “political awareness,” that is ridiculous. Michael’s music was always politically aware even in the day s of the Jacksons with songs like “Man of War.” which he did not write and “Can You Feel It?” and “Be Not Always” which he did write. By the 1990’s, Michael had come a long way in assertiveness regarding what work he wanted on his albums from the days of “Thriller” where he had to argue with his producer, Quincy Jones,” on the inclusion of “Billie Jean.” His political awareness had matured just as he did. That is what makes “Dangerous” and “HIStory” some of his finest work and best loved by Michael’s fans “in the know.”

    You are absolutely correct with this statement: “The one thing we have to remember is that Michael was actually the reverse of what most people think. He was an artist first; a pop star second. As an artist, Michael did what all great artists do. He forced us to confront the best and the worst of himself-and us.” Michael was in all things an artist first. It wasn’t always an easy path but he was true to himself. How many artists ever come along with that level of commercial success? None before Michael and there will be none after. And, after all, isn’t that the real “rub” for critics? And as you say above, he had the largest platform in the world and that has its own problems. His fans understand the music, love it, love the man, and, in the end, really don’t care what the critics say.

    Regardless of the controversy regarding the lyrics of “They Don’t Care About Us,” most people don’t even remember that. It is now the biggest hit of the Immortal show because of its true message that is very much understood and is just as applicable today.

    Always love to read your blog. Keep up the good work.

    1. As I read your comment, I was also thinking back to many of the creative writing workshops that I took as a grad student. I can’t count how many times a piece of work (whether by myself or one of my colleagues) was thoroughly ripped apart at the table. And of course it always came down to one very crucial question: If your readers don’t get what you mean, whose fault is that? The underlying philosophy of these workshops always seemed to be that this was the writer’s (and here, we could also stretch this to the artist) responsibility. If enough people didn’t get what you were trying to say, it was on you-the writer-to go back to the drawing board.

      Yet that experience taught me that, yes, sometimes there ARE lazy readers (and sometimes, yes, there ARE lazy listeners) and I don’t think it is necessarily the artist’s responsibility in every instance to pander to the lazy. It’s just like when we examine a particularly complex work in my lit classes. Some students will be very bright-or very diligent, at least-and will probe a work until they thoroughly understand it. Others will sit back, fold their hands, and say, “This is the most stupid thing I ever read” which is really just a way of saying, “I’m too lazy to take the time to really think about this work, so I prefer to close my mind to it.”

      Sadly, it seems the tendency now is to dumb everything down for the masses, and additionally, to make everything as palatable, “safe” and non offensive as possible. But at what cost?

      I am certainly one of the most liberal and PC people you could ever meet. Like Michael, I love all races and all cultures. But I would also be the first to protest a book banning or a censorship rally. I would be the first to protest the “sanitizing” of Huckleberry Finn. Why? First of all, because the book’s very power derives from its ability to show us where we’ve been (and we cannot appreciate where we are or where we’re going until we understand where we have been) and because its underlying message, despite the prolific use of the “n” word, is actually anti-racist. But one cannot appreciate the depth of Huck’s moral dilemma in that book until they fully understand the world and the society this young boy is a part of. Mark Twain used that book as a mirror to hold to our own faces, in the same way that Michael uses TDCAU as a mirror to show what and who we are, ALL of us. Castrate and sanitize the message, and you also lose the power of the message. And the sad part is that, in so doing, we simply enable the blissful ignorance and denial to continue. Many would prefer to sanitize history rather than owning up to it.

  3. This is a STUPENDOUS article Raven! I’ll definintely be tweeting this to other fans!

    By the way, have you ever heard the hip hop remix of “They Don’t Care About Us?” It has the same lyrics, but a different beat and a rap by Ill Al Skratch! This is the version of the song that I fell in love with as a teen when it got non-stop radio play in 1996!

    1. Thank you. I hadn’t heard this version before. I still prefer the original (I prefer that harder rock edge) but this is an interesting arrangement.

  4. Hi, Raven,

    You’ve written a fair, calm, balanced interpretation of the song. But forgive me if I think you’re omitting the panther in the room, so to speak: black artists are not allowed complexity. Michael Jackson was fine when he was the cute young singer. But when he began asserting himself in the music business arena, as opposed to just performing, he became a force to be reckoned with, and ultimately to be controlled, by any means necessary.

    He certainly was feeling the pushback by the time of TDRCAU. It was also when his marriage was breaking up. (I think he allowed his patchy skin to be seen because he was asserting his black identity, in case the vitiligo made you forget.) Maybe he forgot that, despite his wealth, fame, and talent, he was not going to be allowed to say or do anything that could possibly be construed as condescending to the white, mostly Jewish, men who run entertainment.

  5. That’s a good point, and certainly I think it strongly underscores the entire article. I didn’t cover it, perhaps, in as much depth here because it’s a topic that has already been addressed in many other articles, but it’s a truth that can’t be underestimated. Michael became a threat as he became much more politically conscious. As Michael himself once said, they loved him when he was a song-and-dance man, but as soon as he ceased to be merely a song-and-dance man, they started to tear him down.

    The great African-American poet Langston Hughes once said he knew how all of the white liberals who praised his poetry to his face and sought to shake his hand at parties really felt about him behind his back. There is no reason to think much had changed from his time to Michael’s.

  6. Thank you again for another GREAT article. I especially love what Spike Lee said. Speak the TRUTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  7. Hello Raven 🙂
    Being an Indian, I can’t believe he was ripped apart for “Jew me, sue me…kike me”. Since his death I have read constantly about America and God as I peal layers after layers…I can see it…the good, the bad, the ugly… hypocrisy… (Apologies)

    Btw, thank u for the long version with lovely drums at the end…was it live Raven…? I mean that sound must be a studio recording rit?

    And finally a point about your uncharitable view of “Childhood” song 🙂 I respect your feelings but would like to do you think that he was trying to explain away his eccentricities with this song? I felt he was only trying to explain his child like behaviour, need to be with children and love of elementary things.

    I have noticed lot of fans who have had no or painful childhoods relate so personally to Michael through this song…and perhaps this song is for all the lost childhoods of the world….may be this is why it hits me so hard even though I had a “normal” childhood.

    Perhaps, ur view is an American view keeping in view the times when this song was released?

    1. About Childhood…it probably just comes down to a matter of personal taste. For me, I’ve just always found it a little too saccharine, and it seems as though it’s just his way of rationalizing the public criticism of his childlike behavior. I’m not saying the sentiment of the song isn’t valid; it’s more the execution that for me is problematic in the song. Yet I will admit, I can never criticize that song without feeling a pang of guilt. Michael always said it was his most personal song. Even as the intellectual critic in me attempts to critique it, I can so plaintively hear the voice of Michael crying out, “Before you judge me/Try hard to love me” and it really hits straight to the heart. It was a long, long time after his passing before I could even bear to listen to it all the way through.

      But when it comes to his personal angst and/or message songs, I much prefer songs like Stranger In Moscow, Earth Song, We’ve Had Enough, They Don’t Care About Us, etc. I like songs that have an edge. And when Michael cries out at the end of Stranger In Moscow, “I’m living lonely, baby” that one line to me packs a bigger emotional punch than all of Childhood combined. He really drives that line into your marrow, in such a way that you’re not just pitying him, but literally feeling that loneliness with him. I just think it’s probably one of his most beautiful and perfect songs ever.

      1. O yes, Stranger in Moscow is in a league of its own. Its one of his best songs ever…and the video is incredible 2!

        >Even as the intellectual critic in me attempts to critique it
        U know Raven, like u and so many others around the world after Michael’s physical death, I was thrown into his orbit. And I come from a world so different…a tradition of seers and saints over a thousands of yrs and since my teenage was waiting for a “teacher”…when I “met” Michael, I was riveted…from his videos there was this energy and love, I could not believe…a man cud be so sweet and he was that “crazy” world famous pop star Michael Jackson!

        It was my heart that opened me to Michael and my gut feeling is that Michael Jackson can never be understood through intellect alone. Ever since I hv started this inner journey, I realise that intellect makes things more foggy…we don’t see things as they really are when we see through our mind…because we see them through the ideas in our head. But I must commend u for being one of the most balanced MJ fans ever 🙂

        U know I don’t understand when Americans call songs like “Heal the world”…and “Cry”…”Earth Song”…mushy songs…may be its the culture or something…

        So when I hear Childhood, I only hear a man begging for understanding…and that “man” feels a part of me…

        Sometimes, I wonder how he wrote songs like “Someone hold your hand out”…thats scary….I mean how cud he expose so much of himself in such a hostile environment? Again Lost children on Invincible after child molestation charges and he was already a joke…this makes me think that Michael fashioned his work for posterity, I mean for sure he knew that in the short run it wud get him nothing but ridicule but he still put his heart out in the hope that one day when the storm around him had settled then people will really SEE and UNDERSTAND…

        What do u think?

        1. I agree with your assessment. Sometimes it was easy to even get a bit annoyed with Michael when he seemed so persistently stubborn; so determined to do things “his way” despite the criticism that he knew that would rain down. But in hindsight, I think he was looking beyond, to a much bigger picture than the immediate moment.

  8. Raven, have u seen the article of SB on HP rebutting claims that Michael was not anti-semitic? Or did I read about that post in ur blog? lol

    However repulsing SB may be to me but I found his article pretty solid. And he never tires of telling that he wrote Michael’s speech that he delivered at Oxford and that moment was for Michael his gr8est crowing glory. Sometimes, I feel (spiritually speaking) this man however disloyal came into Michael’s life just to facilitate that moment…I am sure being in that institution meant a lot to him and he may have written the speech but Michael Jackson had lived the essence of what he said that day…

    1. That was a great post from Boteach. The only problem with him is that he’s talked out of both sides of his mouth, so it’s hard to really know which side of the fence he stands on. He seems to support Michael when it’s the “in” thing to do, but in 2005 he was singing a very different tune. In other words-he’s hypocritical. Deep down, I like to believe there’s good in all people and I like to believe that his latest HP post reflects his true feelings on the matter. All things told, I would take his word over someone like Fiddes-at least he did have a close relationship with Michael, which I don’t think Fiddes had for an instant.

  9. Raven, hv u read “You are not alone” by Jermaine? Either way, it has in the opening passage with Michael in the hospital with broken back (the day he turns in pyjamas in court in 2005) …there is Katherine, Joseph and Jermaine in the room…Michael was in HUGE pain…back pain and pain inside…he began unbuttoning his jacket with one hand…struggling…and tears…flowing down his eyes…finally exposing his vitiligo brown and white chest..he sobs..”look at me…look at me…I am the most mis-understood man in the world”…more tears…”mother, what have I done to deserve this…? why are they doing this?”…”I hv wanted nothing more than to be a force of good in the world”…Michael then recollects himself and…says “I am okay”…

    And then judge orders TM to get Michael in court…Michael arrives in the same pyjamas and the jacket that he was in the hospital a couple of hours ago and then another circus…

    God what the media gave him instead of empathy for his injury…

    I don’t know what made him go on…this Magical child from the Dancing the dream…But sorry I am digressing…it must be one of those days and “Stranger in moscow” in the background….


    1. I haven’t had a chance to read Jermaine’s book yet. It’s still on my to-do list. But I’ve heard about that passage you’re describing. It’s heartbreaking.

      1. I would like to send u my copy of that is okay with u. I live in UK these days so I will find out the shipping cost to ur place (Alabama)…I hope its not more than the book cost 🙂

        1. Well that would certainly be appreciated if you want to do that!!! Just let me know. I will email you my physical address. Perhaps I can reimburse you the shipping cost; just let me know how much.

          I like to do reviews of books on Michael once I’ve read them. Right now I am working my way through Defending A King and Joe Vogel’s two books.

  10. i thing this misinterpretaion cost michael jackson life. after this song huge conspiracy started against michael to defame him. they attacked him with false allegations and cases. how can someone himself raising voice against human rights through his songs.can involve in something like child molestation.thats 100% conspiracy against him and it all started after these songs. i think he himself is a biggest victim of racisim. he proved innocent in all these cases. but that the beauty of such cases that even false allegations can destroy yur reputation even u r innocent.i think media play a negative role in all this episode. as a result of these false allegations his health and reputation got badly affected. and he started taking drugs to get rid of depression caused by it and finally died.we lost the legend.if there was no conspiracy maye he was among us making us more chearfull with his songs. i think nothing change in attitude of these evil conspirators. now they are doing same thing with tom cruise why? because he raised his voice against drugs.the organisation which make trillions for those who conspire against michael. they already destroyed him all over the media through false allegation against him .after all after michael jackson he is biggest celebrity.

    1. It is hard to say, though, since many of these events (the first molestation accusation, Sneddon’s vendetta, etc) were already in motion before these songs came about. As for They Don’t Care About Us in particular, his relationships with Jewish moguls like Steven Spielberg and David Geffen had already soured, but certainly the misunderstanding of these lyrics didn’t help matters any. I think Michael did fuel a lot of flames with some of these more political songs, not to mention that he became much more outspoken in calling certain individuals out, which did not endear him to many of power in the record industry.

  11. Hi 2 All
    did You ever think that ,,They,, in Michael Jackson s song ,,they don t care about us,, simly can mean – women?
    In his both videos Men are the only apearence.And Think Better who are the boss in any familly?
    Is women who give life just because they are the keys!
    Is women who do not care about men!

    Read Esther Vilar – the manipulated man

  12. Absolutely wrong about the band Joy Division…

    The problem with the internet is people can write articles without any truth to them and people who don’t know any better will see it as fact. This of course is very dangerous.

    Regarding the post punk band Joy division. Their name was derived from a FICTIONAL book called “house of dolls”. Nazi exploitation literature was very popular at the time, and again, it was a fictional book, and the events depicted in the book NEVER happened. There were never groups of Jewish women in the concentration camps during World War II who were kept for the sexual pleasure of Nazi soldiers referred to as “joy division”.

    1. Thanks for the correction. I am a very big fan of Joy Division; I have all of their music on my MP3 player, but I have not researched them as in-depth as I have Michael Jackson, obviously. I was using the example to make the point that many white rock bands and artists have used Nazi imagery and/or Nazi references without getting the same kind of backlash that Michael did for one line in one song, but this seems to come down to both the cultural differences in their audiences and the fact that it is a much more marginalized demographic. Obviously, these references serve an artistic purpose within their context, but the point I was making is that I believe Michael, as an artist, should have had that same freedom to express himself freely in his art without the world of criticism raining down on his head over one line.

      The authenticity of House of Dolls has been much debated (because it was rumored to have been based on a Jewish girl’s diary, but no such “diary” has ever surfaced). Could it be that such sexual slavery groups existed in Nazi concentration camps? It is very possible, but we simply don’t know. I’m sure that Ian Curtis read the book and felt that he identified with those victims. Over time, it seems that many sources have simply chosen to ignore the fact that this was a novel, especially when discussing how the band got their name. Is it an attempt to sensationalize or twist the truth, or just plain ignorance? It’s hard to say, and as a Michael Jackson fan and scholar, I’ve come to be very wary of the motives of those who spread false information. The last thing I would ever want to do is to be similarly guilty of spreading false information about an artist, and ignorance is no excuse. Unfortunately, sometimes in researching these articles, I often find myself reliant on the very media sources that I’ve learned to distrust. We certainly can’t take at face value anything they print about anyone. And, in repeating information that is false, we simply perpetuate the cycle of ignorance.

      I have gladly made the correction to the piece and thanks again for commenting.

  13. Do you know what it means when the girls at the very beginning of the “They Don’t Care About Us” (prison version) video cover their faces with their hands?

    1. I don’t know. That is a good question. Perhaps representing a refusal to see, or of not wanting to see what’s going on? I have not really watched the prison version in a long time, and your question prompted me to go back to it. I think this version is really long overdue for a good analysis on this blog.

  14. Great article. The part where you mentioned that Willa stated that MJ hit a black guard’s billy club, in the “They Don’t Care About Us” (prison version) video, I’m wondering why they didn’t mention a black prisoner who was threating to hit a white prison guard. What do you think about the black prisoner threatening to hit a white guard also in the video? What was MJ trying to say with that? Thank you.

    1. Interesting question! I will need to re-watch it as it’s actually been awhile since I’ve looked at the prison version. I’ll try to get back with you with some thoughts in a day or two. I’m on break this week so it will be a good time to catch up on Michael-ing.

  15. I have one more question. Do you know what MJ meant when he said “Don’t you wrong or right me” in his They Don’t Care About Us song?

    Thank you.

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